Changing Gears: The Excitement of Changing Things Up

Bryon Powell writes about the enjoyment of trying new things, in this case, running faster.

By on March 13, 2024 | Comments
March 2024 Parkrun - sunrise

Sunrise on the morning of my first Parkrun. All photos: iRunFar/Bryon Powell on the same morning

I could write this story about many topics, as it’s really about all the good that goes with trying something new, going in a new direction, or otherwise changing gears. There’s excitement. There’s also excitement in its alter ego: fear. There’s growth. There’s failure.

I could be talking about my adventures in fly fishing. I could be talking about learning new roles here at iRunFar. Or, I could be talking about running. Running fast(er-ish), to be specific.

I guess it all started last November when I traveled back home to where I grew up in New Jersey and jumped into a slightly-short-of-five-kilometers cross-country race along with a bunch of family. Things were spicy off the start line with kids sprinting, high schoolers going out hard, and some of the nearly 1,000 others being a bit over exuberant. I was aware that I, too, was going out too hot, but didn’t want to get stuck behind loads of people when they blew a cylinder a few minutes later.

March 2024 Parkrun - morning clouds

To make a long story short, I somehow kind of stuck it. The course was short, but I averaged 6:16 per mile for 2.94 miles. That’s a large contrast to my normal 10-minute-per-mile pace, which occasionally goes a hair under nine-minute pace, slogging around the roads of Silverton, Colorado, where I live.

There are lots of reasons why I’ve not tried to run fast for a long time. As is the case for so many runners, I’ve trended toward longer, slower races and outings over the years. I had my fill of sharp and fast training through high school, college, and the years that followed. I usually live at 9,300 feet in elevation with most runs going up from there. Most importantly, I’ve been increasingly slowed, in many ways, by my bum Achilles.

With all that as background, that fast(er) Thanksgiving Day effort got me thinking of what I might be able to run for some shorter distances if I actually did a little faster training. On top of that, to do my faster training, I’d have to keep working on rehabilitating my Achilles, restrengthening my lower kinetic chain, and otherwise get to improving many of the bits of my running that I’ve let atrophy due to the cocktail of pain, fear, and dysfunction said injury has consistently served up for a few decades.

March 2024 Parkrun - Wanaka Station Trees

So, here I sit in Wanaka, New Zealand, where we’ve been staying the last several months, having run some intentionally harder efforts in the three-to-six-mile range of late, finally having run strides at the end of at least four runs the past fortnight, and even having run a 5k time trial a few Saturdays ago.

Last November, I did have dreams of setting a sub-18-minute 5k goal for 2024, but a 20:40 time trial last week suggests otherwise. In the end, the time itself doesn’t matter. It’s all the fitness, health, and enjoyment that I hope comes from the journey of trying to run faster.

Ok, time to get out of this chair, throw on some shoes, and find a little speed.
March 2024 Parkrun - Lake Wanaka shoreline

Call for Comments

  • How have you shaken up your running in recent years?
  • Ever dip back into faster running after a long break?

[Author’s Note: Since writing this essay, I ran my first Parkrun — these are free weekly 5ks held around the world! — on the shores of Lake Wanaka and managed 20:20 for 5k cross country.]

March 2024 Parkrun - Bryon Powell

The author after his first Parkrun.

Bryon Powell

Bryon Powell is the Founding Editor of iRunFar. He’s been writing about trail running, ultrarunning, and running gear for more than 15 years. Aside from iRunFar, he’s authored the books Relentless Forward Progress: A Guide to Running Ultramarathons and Where the Road Ends: A Guide to Trail Running, been a contributing editor at Trail Runner magazine, written for publications including Outside, Sierra, and Running Times, and coached ultrarunners of all abilities. Based in Silverton, Colorado, Bryon is an avid trail runner and ultrarunner who competes in events from the Hardrock 100 Mile just out his front door to races long and short around the world, that is, when he’s not fly fishing or tending to his garden.